GC Compensation

Companies that want Top Legal Talent Pay a Premium

The duties have multiplied—and titles, too—but compensation for GCs is rising again

, Daily Report

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Photo of MARSHALL T. SCOTT
MARSHALL T. SCOTT: Senior executive pay consultant with Towers Watson says GCs are seeing "a nice bump in compensation."

Koblentz attributes this to the "skinny down of the legal department and that more lawyers want to be in a corporate setting rather than deal with the pressures of working in a law firm." In addition, he says corporations are finding it "cheaper to have their own team than a team on the outside."

Koblentz also agrees that with corporations having to deal with increasingly tough regulations, such as Dodd-Frank, that "companies are willing to pay a premium for the talent and experience. Because of this, general counsels are much more in the inner circle these days. Legal talent is precious right now."

But getting down to the hard numbers, boards are requiring executive compensation to be tied directly to the performance of the company.

"After 2008 or '09, there was a reset in compensations and many companies froze the salaries of executives or bonuses weren't given out. Especially in 2008, a lot of companies didn't hand out bonuses because the performance of the company didn't warrant it or they were nervous about the state of the economy and the world," says Scott, who is also an attorney.

However, a bit of optimism filtered into the corporate boardrooms in 2010 and the compensation gates opened again—slightly. "The feeling was that the companies had weathered the worst and pay inched up or bonuses were given out," Scott said. "Certainly they were conservative. There wasn't a sense of overpaying to make up for the past couple of years. Again, executive pay tends to be correlated to the stock price. So if the stock is up, the value is up."

Several of the companies on the compensation top 10 lists noted their recent successes in SEC filings, resulting in increases in compensation.

Primerica, for example, stated in its proxy statement that incentive compensation reflected its financial and distribution results. "Operating results for fiscal 2012 were strong, and the size of our life-licensed sales force increased for the first time in four years," the statement says. As a result, Primerica's compensation committee approved a corporate performance payout equal to 104.4 percent of the target bonus amount.

Balancing the "strong personal performance with weaker performance against the corporate sales force objective," the committee decided to pay each of its named executive officers between 100 percent and 120 percent of the individual portion of the individual's target bonus amount."

AT&T reported that its 17.5 percent total stockholder return outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average and, along with other strong performance metrics, resulted in it awarding executives base salary increases of on average 2.4 percent.

Scripps Networks Interactive found its 2012 consolidated operation revenue was up $2.3 billion—an 11 percent jump over 2011—and advertising revenue up $1.6 billion—a jump of 9 percent over 2011—so it awarded salary increases of 3.6 percent to 6.5 percent to its executive team.

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